Even basic needs of young are not met

22nd March 1996 at 00:00
Helena Kennedy QC and Sir Ron Dearing can be as objective, impartial and detached as they like in the committees, research findings, surveys and reports relating to 16 to 20-year-olds in or out of Youth Training, foundation training, education, employment and unemployment.

They can also be as down to earth as they like about choosing titles such as "national traineeships". It still won't work.

The majority of these 30,000 disenchanted and disenfranchised young people seem to have been depersonalised by the degeneration of many of the formal structures of society and the ensuring negative effects impinging upon them.

There is regularly seen to be: * a lack of positive lifeskills; * a lack of basic educational skills; * a lack of organisational skills; * a lack of presentation skills; * an association with drugalcohol problems; * a tendency towards offending behaviour; * a strong link to poverty, illness and disaffection; * young people not living in the "family" home.

There is no innate drive, motivation, fun, curiosity, anticipation or hope in these young people. They seem totally dependent upon social workers, careers advisers and college staff to lead them into the future. Give them a "push" these days and you will lose them.

The psychologist Abraham Maslow's "hierarchy of basic needs" is well known. It is based on ensuring that lower needs are met before moving upwards in a step-by-step progression from fundamental physical needs toself-actualisation - that is, from basic physiological requirements through to confidence, pride and personal fulfilment.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner seem to be non-events these days. The triple collective "brunner" probably outdoes "brunch" as the current daily food intake function.

It is apparent, though, that some charitable training organisations and TEC-funded courses are having singular successes. My three successes since last September still live within the family home - albeit one natural parent in two cases.

Every 12 weeks I have a list of about 24 16 to 18-year-olds to interview for a SKIP (foundation training) course. Ten will turn up for the interview; all 10 will be offered a place on the 12-week full-time course. On the first day of attendance nine young people turn up; on the second the number is down to seven - and so on. For all the efforts of the dedicated educational input through 11 years of compulsory schooling (often interrupted and much less in many cases) these young people are starved - of warmth, love and belonging, self-esteem, and any idea of where and how to find fulfilment. There is a total absence of Maslow's scaffolding - the bricks and mortar are just not there.

Subjectively, I could write, talk, shout and pummel my desk about this downward spiralling situation that no one in "political power" can seem to manage to turn into an uplifting, fulfilling experience for all these youngsters and the people with whom they come into regular contact.

Who has the answers? Maybe, those who will be generously biased and prejudiced towards declaring optimistic goals that can be wholeheartedly achieved by these impoverished, itinerant young people.

ALLAN ADAMS Course co-ordinator Jobskills Foundation Training Hastings College Archery Road, St Leonards on Sea East Sussex

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